Fresh air, fresh air and more fresh air – Austria is the ultimate destination for outdoor enthusiasts. But Austria isn’t just about the Alps. The wooded foothills, gently rolling farmland and flowering meadows in Austria’s lowlands provide equally enchanting vistas. And when your feet grow weary from all that walking, chill out in Salzkammergut and Carinthia’s sparkling lakes. Or head to Vienna for Hapsburg heritage, Salzburg for baroque splendour or the Unesco-listed Wachau valley for medieval monasteries and castles galore.
Take a hike the luxury way – Combine walking in the Alps south of Salzburg with stays in cosy, family-run hotels
Head to the Wachau region – You won't be able to walk a mile along the Danube without bumping into a charmingly crumbling abbey or castle
Treat your taste buds on the Käsetrasse – A trail of traditional dairy farms running through Bregenzerwald’s mountain forests
Go boating or fishing in Carinthia – ‘Austria’s Alpine Riviera’ boasts over 1,000 lakes and pools
Take the train to Vienna – Belle époque cafés and winery walks in the suburbs
Unwind in Bad Radkersburg – Thermal waters sooth sore muscles after a day’s cycling in the surrounding countryside
If you’re planning on regularly hiking Austria’s mountains, join the Österreichischer Alpenverein (the Austrian Alpine Club), which has a branch in Britain. Members get a 50% discount on the ÖAV’s 500-plus mountain huts dotted across the Alps.
Austria is great to visit at any time of year. The best time depends on what you want to do. In winter the high levels of snow make Austria an ideal destination for winter sports, plus the cities are quieter and enchanting with a white dusting – just make sure you dress warmly.
April to October is the best period to go hiking, mountain-biking and lake-swimming in the Alps, though some alpine resorts close down April-June. June and August see the highest temperatures in the Alps but also the highest levels of rainfall.
Vienna International (VIE) 18km from Vienna; Innsbruck Kranebitten (INN) 4km from Innsbruck; Salzburg Mozart (SZG) 3km from Salzburg; Klagenfurt (KLU) 3km from Klagenfurt; Graz (GRZ) 9km from Graz
Austria has an efficient network of trains between its major cities and towns. Trains tend to be quicker but more expensive than comparative bus services.
Austria’s bus system connects the small towns, villages and lakes the trains don’t get to. Timetables are available from local tourist offices. Roads in Austria are impeccably maintained and a pleasure to drive – but don’t attempt alpine routes in winter unless your vehicle has snow chains.
Cycling is very popular in Austria. You’ll find bike-only pathways in rural areas as well the cities; there are bike rental outlets throughout the country.
From mountain huts to 5-star luxury, Austria has it all. In Austria’s tourist hotspots, such as Vienna and Salzburg, you’re advised to book in advance for the busy months of July and August. In alpine resorts, prices can double during the ski season (December-April) and the summer high season (July-August). Visit in May or November for the best deals.
Austrian specialities include Wiener schnitzel (veal fried in breadcrumbs), Knödel (dumplings) and Tafelspitz (boiled beef with potatoes and horseradish). Don’t miss a visit to a Kaffeehaus to sample Austria’s world-renowned Viennese pastries.
Wash this hearty fare down with one of Austria’s many high-quality lagers or a generous glass of schnapps.
Vegetarians are well provided for in major cities. In Austria’s countryside restaurants, they may struggle to find one meat-free dish.
Austria has an excellent healthcare system. If you are an EU citizen, a European Health Insurance Card covers you for most medical care. No vaccinations are required, though it’s worth checking your tetanus jab is up to date. Tap water is safe to drink – in fact, it’s said to be better than the bottled water.
In touristy areas in Austria, as in other parts of the world, be aware of pickpockets.
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